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A City of Sadness (1989)

Beiqíng chéngshì (original title)
A beautiful, historical film based upon the complex lives of four brothers.

Director:

Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Reviews
8 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Tony Chiu-Wai Leung ... Wen-ching (as Tony Chiu Wai Leung)
Shu-Fen Hsin Shu-Fen Hsin ... Hinome
Sung Young Chen ... Wen-heung
Jack Kao ... Wen Leung
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Wou Yi Fang Wou Yi Fang ... Hinoiei
Ai-Yun Ho Ai-Yun Ho ... Bg Brother Chie
Chien-Ho Huang Chien-Ho Huang
Chien-ru Huang Chien-ru Huang
Tien-Lu Li Tien-Lu Li ... Ah-lu (as Tian-Lu Li)
Ju Lin Ju Lin
Lih-Ching Lin Lih-Ching Lin ... (as Liqing Lin)
Ikuyo Nakamura Ikuyo Nakamura ... Shizuko
Chen-Nan Tsai
Chang-Chiang Yang Chang-Chiang Yang
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Storyline

A beautiful, historical film based upon the complex lives of four brothers.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Hong Kong | Taiwan

Release Date:

21 October 1989 (Taiwan) See more »

Also Known As:

A City of Sadness See more »

Filming Locations:

Hokkien, China See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

3-H Films,ERA International See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

As revealed in scriptwriter Chu Tien-Wen's book, the original premise of this film is the reunion of an ex-gangster (which Hou Hsiao-Hsien intended to cast Chow Yun-fat for the role) and his former lover (supposedly played by Yang Li-Hua, the top Taiwanese Opera actress in real-life) in 1970s. Hou and Chu then extended the story to involve substantial flashbacks of the calamity of the woman's family in late 1940s (where the woman was the teenage daughter of Chen Song-Yong's character). They then abandoned the former premise and instead focused on the 1940s' story. See more »

Connections

Followed by Hao nan hao nu (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

That rarity, a quiet epic
22 April 2015 | by jandesimpsonSee all my reviews

Hou Hsiou-Hsien's "A City of Sadness" is one of Oriental Cinema's most rewarding challenges. I have returned to it several times, always with a sense of awe, understanding it a little more on each occasion but still not always sure what is actually happening on the screen. Although this makes the experience sometimes frustrating, the miracle is that it never detracts from the gut feeling I have had from the very first viewing that I am watching a masterpiece. An ambitious attempt to capture the immediate post second world war period of Taiwanese history by following the members of one family through fragments of their daily lives rather than a carefully constructed continuous narrative, Hou's work resonates with tremendous feeling. As is usual with this director, the audience has to work hard to supply connections in a film without joins, in order to understand who is who and what is actually going on. I have to admit that some of the scenes of gang violence still elude me, but, these apart, the light is beginning to shine through. It is clear that the old man with the beret who sits often staring vacantly is the owner of that densely furnished restaurant; that he has four sons. The eldest, the sturdy looking one, seems perennially mixed up with figures of a gangster underworld, the second has returned from the war mentally damaged, the third did not return from active service in the Phillipines and is presumed dead. And then there is the youngest who has a photographer's studio and seems completely apart from the rest of the family by virtue of a sensitive, gentle nature and the disability of complete deafness brought on by a childhood accident. It is his fortunes and those of the young nurse he eventually marries that provide the sense of audience empathy that even the most obscure cinema need in order to work its magic. Their scenes provide moments of great tenderness in a relationship that relies entirely for communication on the written note such as the occasion when she needs to tell him about the beauty of a German folksong that is being played. When the country is placed under repressive martial law with massed executions for dissenters we have snippets of the deaf mute's experiences. There is a particularly telling moment when he is in captivity, unable to hear the sound of the firing squad from which he somehow mercifully escapes. In "A City of Sadness" it is short scenes such as this that one remembers so vividly. That it provides the experience of a sweeping epic without recourse to any great scenes of action is both its mystery and fascination.


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